In Defense of Pen & Paper

While similar in age to our new prime minister, I’m old enough to remember and have used things like carbon paper, typewriters and personalized stationery (the perfumed kind!). I remember the day when we got a personal computer at our house. It was a big deal. There was something similar at my school, and it lived on a dolly and got wheeled from classroom to classroom so we all got a chance to learn how to use it. For what I’m not sure, as all through public school and university I took notes with pen and paper, and submitted hand-written reports and essays. The fingers of my writing hand are permanently deformed from hours spent writing notes.

Today, in order to do my job efficiently, I have a desktop computer, a laptop computer, a tablet and a “phone” that really should be called a mobile email device because I rarely use it to talk to people. I have a big pile of pens on my desk, and I know there’s lined paper around here somewhere, but I’m not totally sure where.

When I meet clients, I bring my tablet and efficiently type my notes about the candidate profile. When I interview candidates, I transcribe my notes on my laptop. While certainly we’re trying to save paper, we’ve mainly moved to doing everything electronically because of bad handwriting; I can’t read my co-workers’ handwriting, and if I need to interpret his interview or client notes, I can’t do my job. That, and most of us type faster than we write so we can take more accurate notes with our computers.

Of course, we aren’t the only ones who have whole-heartedly embraced the efficiency technology affords us. Nowhere is this more evident than in university lecture halls. If I were in university today, my fingers would all be straight. Laptops are no longer a luxury, but rather the standard equipment for note-taking students. Laptops are also being introduced in K-12 schools, particularly for students who struggle with reading and writing. We’re all being more efficient and effective thanks to technology.

Or are we?

A recent study by Pam A. Mueller at Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer at UCLA suggests the method by which we record notes may affect the way we absorb the information we’re hearing. While the study’s authors didn’t have an answer as to the cognitive reasons why, it was clear that those who used pen and paper more effectively processed the information they heard more than those who typed.

My first thought when I heard about this was that all those other things on our laptops and tablets are distracting us from the task at hand, and in fact that has been borne out in other studies. What makes this study so interesting is that they controlled for these distractions and the pen and paper users still performed better answering conceptual questions after the note-taking exercise.

While they call me “Rainbow” at the office because of my commitment to being green, I didn’t switch from pen and paper to technology to save paper. In fact, I worry our technology waste is a far larger problem. I simply thought I was being more efficient and making life easier for my colleagues. However, my clients pay me to listen, to think, and to form opinions and judgments based on what I’ve heard. If I’m too busy transcribing information as opposed to really hearing what’s being said, I’m not being as effective as I’d like. So I’m going to take a little tech break and track down that lined paper. I promise I won’t be submitting my candidate reports or job profiles to you in longhand on scented personalized paper. But try not to be too distracted by my deformed fingers.

PFM Welcomes its Newest Recruiting Associate

Many of you may be familiar with Maggie Ow who has been one of our outstanding Project Coordinators since 2012, ensuring our executive search assignments run smoothly and efficiently. When an opportunity arose to add to our Recruiting Associate team, we knew the best candidate was in our ranks, and Maggie officially joined the group this fall.

Maggie brings a very unique background to this role. She holds a BA in Fashion Design and Technology from Kwantlen Polytechnic University and was a designer for five years for the labels Mac & Jac and Kensie. A move to the UK saw her transition her career to the finance industry, where Maggie became Executive Assistant in a large financial services firm.

Upon returning to her hometown of Vancouver, Maggie decided she wanted to stay in the corporate world and we were lucky enough to have her join the PFM team. Maggie proved to be an outstanding Project Coordinator. She was able to build an excellent rapport with our candidates and clients. Her attention to detail was second-to-none, and she was able to push her team members to ensure search projects were managed effectively and efficiently.

The role of Recruiting Associate requires two key factors: tenacity and natural curiosity. Maggie has both of these in spades and she has been a natural fit for the role. We know you will continue to enjoy working with Maggie on various assignments.

Please join us in congratulating Maggie on this well-deserved promotion.

2015 Jack Webster Awards Dinner Participation

CTV Vancouver 6pm News Anchor, Mike Killeen, flanked by PFM Senior Recruiting Associate Brittany Stansfield (L) and Partner Shelina Esmail (R) at the 2015 Jack Webster Awards Dinner.

CTV Vancouver 6pm News Anchor, Mike Killeen, flanked by PFM Senior Recruiting Associate Brittany Stansfield (L) and Partner Shelina Esmail (R) at the 2015 Jack Webster Awards Dinner.


Over 900 guests packed the Hyatt Regency Ballroom for the 2015 Jack Webster Awards Dinner to celebrate the very best in journalism here in British Columbia.  The Jack Webster Foundation honours award recipients from all forms of print and electronic journalism and the annual event draws a who’s who crowd from media outlets around the province and from Toronto as well. 

PFM Executive Search has been an active participant in the Webster Foundation for many years with Partner, George Madden having been on the Board of Trustees for a considerable amount of time and having been a two-term Chair of the Foundation.  PFM Executive Search hosts a table each year at the Awards Dinner and the 2015 event was an evening of celebration and a chance for a number of the firm’s team members to honour journalistic achievements here in British Columbia.  To learn more about the Jack Webster Foundation and see photos of the event and award winners from 2015 please visit

PFM Executive Search is active in a wide-range of community and business events.  The PFM team members constantly give back to the community through involvement in many grass roots organizations and as leaders on a variety of committees and task forces and fundraising activities.

PFM Executive Search Announces New Partners

November 2, 2015 – Vancouver, BC. PFM Executive Search, one of Canada’s leading executive search firms, is proud to announce the naming of Shelina Esmail and Shaun Carpenter as Partners. Shelina and Shaun have been with PFM for 17 years, most recently as Associate Partners, and are both committed to continuing to build on the firm’s reputation for developing relationships and delivering client satisfaction.

“Shelina and Shaun have been with us for much of our 23 year history and have played major roles in the evolution and growth of PFM Search,” said George Madden, Founding Partner, who along with fellow Founding Partner Casey Forrest, see Shelina and Shaun’s enhanced roles as a natural progression in their careers. “We’re delighted to have Shelina and Shaun as equity owners in the firm and as partners in building the business and charting a course for the future. They are resourceful, creative and client-focused, and are a big part of the PFM brand.”

Shelina Esmail

Shelina joined PFM in 1998 as Director of Research, transitioning after four years to the role of consultant. In 2011, she was named Associate Partner. Before joining PFM, she earned a BA in Economics and a Diploma in Urban Land Economics – both from UBC – and worked for five years in commercial real estate. Shelina is passionate about developing talent and tomorrow’s leaders and has volunteered with Junior Achievement BC and as a mentor to UBC economics students. Most recently she was elected to the Board of the UBC Alumni Association. She is a wife, mother of two active boys and a resident of Vancouver’s north shore.

“As a partner, I intend to advance the model that has made PFM successful, demonstrating our reputation for stability and instilling a strong sense of trust and confidence among our clients,” said Shelina.

Shaun Carpenter

Also a 17-year veteran of PFM, Shaun joined the firm in a research capacity and progressed through the roles of consultant, senior consultant and most recently Associate Partner. Shaun has become increasingly involved in strategy and business development, and leadership mentoring. A native of Calgary and a graduate of the University of Calgary (Commerce), Shaun, his wife and two daughters proudly call Port Moody home. He sits on the Board of the Human Resources Management Association (HRMA) and is a passionate volunteer for the Heart and Acute Medical Unit at BC Children’s Hospital, developing corporate sponsorships across the province for the annual Triple Crown for Heart charity ride

“PFM has been a consistent brand in our market for many years, and I’m excited to continue offering our promise of excellence in the service of clients and treatment of candidates to the current and next generation of decision makers,” said Shaun.

About PFM Executive Search

We are a leading executive search firm based in Vancouver, and together with our Panorama Global Search Partners, we provide outstanding facilitation of large and diverse Search and Selection Committees in our work with private, public and not-for-profit organizations. The hallmark of our success over the last 23 years has been our ability to develop strong working relationships with a diverse group of clients in creating a seamless executive search process that nets proven results for our clients.

Delta Selects Neil Dubord as New Chief Constable

PFM Executive Search was pleased to work with the Delta Police Department in the recruitment of its new Police Chief.  This is the first time in 22-years the Delta Police Department has gone outside the organization for a Chief Constable and our firm was retained to conduct a national search to bring forward a diverse slate of qualified candidates.

In the end, the Delta Police Board selected Neil Dubord as its new Chief Constable. Lois Jackson, Mayor of Delta and Chair of the Delta Police Board noted in her announcement that: “after an intensive search, Neil Dubord has been selected as Delta’s new Chief Constable. He assumes the position vacated by former Chief Constable Jim Cessford who retired earlier this year after 22 years of service.”

“We looked for a Chief who is a strong leader with a proven track record in policing, a critical thinker and more importantly a person who believes in community policing and our “no call too small” mandate. Mr. Dubord has all those qualities and a solid career behind him,” said the Mayor. “We welcome him to our community, and we are confident he will be an excellent fit for our organization and will continue to make Delta one of the safest communities in the lower mainland.”

Neil brings more than 28 years of police experience to Delta. Prior to his last three years as the Chief of Transit Police, he spent 25 years with the Edmonton Police Service. Serving as Deputy Chief of Edmonton’s Community Policing Bureau and taking leadership roles in a wide variety of initiatives, from neighbourhood empowerment through community action teams to services integration and aboriginal awareness programs for officers on the force, Neil has distinguished himself in front-line policing, tactical and strategic development, critical incident command and as a manager, with numerous local and national awards and citations.

Chief Dubord holds a Master of Arts degree in Leadership and Training from Royal Roads University and a PhD in Business Management from Arizona’s Northcentral University. His police experience has been enhanced with studies at the Canadian Police College in Ottawa, the University of Virginia in Washington, DC and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation at Quantico, Virginia.

PFM Executive Search has gained extensive experience working with a wide variety of law enforcement agencies over the years.  Our firm has become the preeminent search company that Police Boards turn to when they wish to conduct an open, fair and transparent search process.